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Research article2012Peer reviewedOpen access

Causes of Ring-Related Leg Injuries in Birds – Evidence and Recommendations from Four Field Studies

Griesser M, Schneider NA, Collis MA, Overs A, Guppy M, Guppy S, Takeuchi N, Collins P, Peters A, Hall ML


One of the main techniques for recognizing individuals in avian field research is marking birds with plastic and metal leg rings. However, in some species individuals may react negatively to rings, causing leg injuries and, in extreme cases, the loss of a foot or limb. Here, we report problems that arise from ringing and illustrate solutions based on field data from Brown Thornbills (Acanthiza pusilla) (2 populations), Siberian Jays (Perisoreus infaustus) and Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens (Malurus coronatus). We encountered three problems caused by plastic rings: inflammations triggered by material accumulating under the ring (Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens), contact inflammations as a consequence of plastic rings touching the foot or tibio-tarsal joint (Brown Thornbills), and toes or the foot getting trapped in partly unwrapped flat-band colour rings (Siberian Jays). Metal rings caused two problems: the edges of aluminium rings bent inwards if mounted on top of each other (Brown Thornbills), and too small a ring size led to inflammation (Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens). We overcame these problems by changing the ringing technique (using different ring types or larger rings), or using different adhesive. Additionally, we developed and tested a novel, simple technique of gluing plastic rings onto metal rings in Brown Thornbills. A review of studies reporting ring injuries (N = 23) showed that small birds (<55 g body weight) are more prone to leg infections while larger birds (>35 g) tend to get rings stuck over their feet. We give methodological advice on how these problems can be avoided, and suggest a ringing hazard index to compare the impact of ringing in terms of injury on different bird species. Finally, to facilitate improvements in ringing techniques, we encourage online deposition of information regarding ringing injuries of birds at a website hosted by the European Union for Bird Ringing (EURING).

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2012, Volume: 7, number: 12, article number: e51891
Publisher: Public Library of Science

      SLU Authors

      • Schneider, Nicole

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